MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Franklin Drilon on Monday said the Senate was working hard to “recover the confidence of the people” amid the lawmakers’ alleged misuse of their Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel”.
“The people are angry…even towards the whole institution. Perhaps this will be a challenge to us to be able to recover the confidence of the people in our Senate as a democratic institution,” Drilon said in an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM.
The Senate President admitted that the people were looking down on the institution but said the “cleansing process” only proves that democracy is working in the Philippines.
Drilon, who refused to give personal opinion on whether accused senators should take a leave of absence, said they would follow due process in deciding the fate of their colleagues.
“If a complaint is filed, we have to refer it to the ethics committee. But it is the whole Senate that decides,” he said.
Drilon said that the Ombudsman should first evaluate if the cases filed would merit a counter affidavit and a subsequent filing of charges at the Sandiganbayan.
He also reiterated the need to listen to the side of the accused lawmakers.
Asked if the senators would be suspended in case they would be charged with plunder based on Republic Act 7080, Drilon said they would have to study the issue since in the past lawmakers “always invoke the authority of the House of Congress to discipline its own members.”
Nevertheless, the Liberal Party vice chairman said the “cleansing process…shows that President [Benigno Aquino III] has nothing to hide and whatever needs to be done by the present administration is being done for the sake of transparency and accountability.”
Drilon said he has yet to speak with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who have been linked to the pork barrel scam.
The three have inhibited themselves from the ongoing Blue Ribbon committee investigation on the misuse of the PDAF through bogus non-government organizations.
Drilon assured that the Senate would function amid the controversy, as budget deliberations and other hearings continue